Don't cut staff—lend them away during slow periods.

That's the aim of a British pilot program launched this month from'¨not-for-profit Work Wise UK. Called'¨StaffShare , it's'¨essentially an online swap shop where businesses can offer up'¨employees for short- and medium-term loan.

"Instead of losing trained, skilled employees during a period of'¨economic adjustment, businesses can offer these skills to charitable'¨and other organizations," says Phil Flaxton, Work Wise's chief'¨executive. StaffShare was launched exclusively for charities six'¨months ago, and success—90 charities registered, including giants'¨such as Save the Children and WaterAid—prompted it to open its'¨doors to everyone.

How it works: On the StaffShare website the "seller" company lists the'¨employee's skills, daily rate, and availability. The cost is £50 (roughly $81.70) a'¨year per candidate. The "buyer" company searches the database, uses'¨the website's message system to vet candidates and iron out'¨details with the seller, and then a contract is sent'¨electronically. The buyer company pays a 7.5 percent commission to StaffShare to help cover'¨its operating costs.

A conversation two-and-a-half years ago—so, pre-recession—with British'¨Telecom and a handful of banks prompted Work Wise to pioneer its pink'¨slip alternative, which has been in development since then.

"The companies had these redeployment pools of 1,000 people who needed'¨to find other work within the company," Flaxton says. "So we thought,'¨'What if there was a service where they could find it at another'¨company?"

He has high hopes the initiative will benefit small businesses. "One small or'¨medium enterprise has employees whose skills it doesn't want to lose'¨permanently, and maybe another business can't afford the salary that some'¨of these people can command on a fulltime basis, but they can borrow'¨it for a few weeks or months," Flaxton says. (He admits fear of'¨fulltime talent-poaching is an issue, with companies saying they will'¨prevent their staff from working for direct competitors.)

StaffShare isn't alone in the British talent-trade. Tiga, the British trade association for the computer'¨gaming industry, in September launched a free'¨program called Industry Sharing, which allows for employers to share talent. (Tiga's rules also attempt to prohibit talent pilfering.) Tiga spokeswoman Eva Field says'¨Industry Sharing grew out of a grant from the National Endowment for'¨Science, Technology and the Arts, a British innovation nonprofit, to help'¨stop brain drain from the country.

In the game development life cycle, there's often a group of artists'¨sitting idle while a new game is being tested, or a big company suddenly'¨will get a big project and need to staff it quickly, but only for a'¨couple of weeks.

"Outsourcing has its own issues and it can be expensive to recruit'¨staff," Field says. She wouldn't give usage statistics, but said in'¨December a member company found 20 workers it needed and had'¨them working—"bums on seats," she says—within two weeks. "They'¨were amazed with how much money and time they saved," she added.